KATC called out for ‘victim blaming'

by Patrick Flanagan

It didn't take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.

It didn't take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.

While Lafayette Police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the death Sunday of 21-year-old Alexandria Shelton - whose body was found in a drainage canal at Girard Park - KATC, after already having reported all the available details on the case, rolled out a story called "Families Enjoy Day in Girard Park Despite Body Found Hours Earlier." It didn't sit too well with online readers, and the story was pulled from the local TV station's website within several hours of its posting.

According to an online article by XCulture Magazine, KATC's coverage was a classic example of "victim blaming," which they define as "a devaluing act where the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment is held as wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them."

KATC wasn't alone in its victim blaming, as much of the article's credit should go to Lafayette Police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton.

"Crime is about opportunity," Mouton tells KATC. "If you create that opportunity, you create the opportunity of you becoming a victim."

The article continues, "Corporal Mouton says this morning's discovery is a reminder that while the park is always open, you shouldn't leave yourself open to becoming a victim of a crime."

At this point in the investigation, it's worth noting, Lafayette PD still wasn't sure of Shelton's cause of death, and according to reports issued Tuesday, it has now been confirmed that she wasn't killed, but rather died accidentally by drowning.

Yet, thirsty for a good news story, KATC (remember all the available details of the case had already been reported) goes on to interview a former resident of the area, Jennifer Brown, who says she agrees with Mouton, that women shouldn't go out late at night by themselves. Brown then raises the example of Mickey Shunick as proof of what can happen to females alone at night.

Here's the response from X Culture:

Like Shelton, Mickey Shunick was not at fault for her fate. Shunick is not at fault for being abducted and murdered. She wasn't murdered because she was out late riding her bike, she was murdered because someone murdered her.

Women have the right to the same life as  men, meaning we don't have to go into hiding, lock our doors, and pray for morning light once the sun goes down. As human beings, we have the right to go outside whenever we want (alone or with company), and we have the right to feel safe doing so. It's disgusting that instead of sympathizing with the victim or calling on our community to give women their right to safety, we engage in victim blaming and complete disregard for the victim and her loved ones.

Victim Blaming is usually used to help people regain control and stability in their own lives after horrific events. Things like this body being found and the Mickey Shunick case are events that haven shaken the Lafayette community; so a need for security is understandable. See, Victim blaming is a self-defense mechanism used to say "oh well, they were just careless. Surely if I take the right precautions nothing will happen to me if I do the same things they were."

However, when we do this we forget that the body found at Girard Park was a real person. We purposefully forget that she could have been just like us. Instead, we make her "special" and "careless" because we're afraid someone will do the same to us (because wellthey can.)  Because of how we react, we make it "okay" to put blame on victims of any crime rather than blaming the real culprit fully.

It's frustrating that a news station like KATC continued this cycle by centering their article and quotes around victim blaming. I only hope that KATC will learn from this and not manipulate their articles to blame victims again.

After demanding an apology from the news station, KATC issued this response Monday afternoon:

First off, we are sorry for a weekend web post we made regarding the death of Alexandria Shelton. In our story, we interviewed police and a person who was at the park on Sunday. Both talked about how important it was not to be out late at night alone; one even mentioned Mickey Shunick's murder and the fact she was out alone. It was not our intention to imply the victim was to blame for her death, if it were to turn out that she was harmed by another person. Out of respect for the Shelton family, we removed the article. We wanted to give you the facts of the case, allow for police to give tips on how to protect yourself, and speak with those at the park who were concerned following the discovery of Shelton's body. You also told us the words we used were insensitive, and you were right. We chose the wrong wording, and we apologize. We've also spoken to the Shelton family and expressed our deepest regret for any harm the article has caused as they try to cope following the untimely death of Alexandria.

Though KATC did pull the story from its website, you can still read it here.